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Springsteen and I: Film Review

Bruce Springsteen Fan Photos Elvis - H 2013
Bruce Springsteen jamming with an Elvis impersonator in "Springsteen and I"

The Bottom Line

Heartfelt doc is by and for the superfans

Opens:

July 22 (NCM Fathom Events)

Director:

Baillie Walsh

Fans from around the world collaborate on a love letter to The Boss.

If producers were to issue a call to the global community of, say, Bjork fans, asking them to collaborate on a film about their idol, one imagines they'd receive a trove of quirky animations, microcosmic art films and elfin poetry.

When you make the same request of Bruce Springsteen fans, though, you get something straight from the heart -- unadorned expressions of love, stories about life-changing concerts and songs that said exactly what the listener felt at the moment it most needed saying. Baillie Walsh's Springsteen and I gathers these homemade tributes into an effusive feature that will resonate with the kind of die-hard Boss fans who helped make it, but quickly grows tiresome for the less devout among us. Fathom's special-event screenings are the smartest way to put the doc in theaters; DVD sales and rentals will rely on those who own every B-side and have tour T-shirts dating back to the '80s.

Composed almost entirely of fan-produced material, the film's visuals are generally crude, often shot on phones. Men and women -- mostly, but not exclusively, middle-aged and white -- speak to the camera in living rooms, from behind the wheel while driving, or at the site of a memorable concert and try to describe what the songwriter means to them. Expressions of freakish devotion pop up occasionally -- as with a woman who recalls training her newborn to associate a picture of Springsteen with the word "daddy" -- but the focus is on saner characters who simply respond to the music and admire the entertainer's loyalty and tirelessness.

STORY: Top Five Moments from 'Springsteen and I'

Many participants speak of remarkable encounters -- the Elvis impersonator who got himself pulled onstage for a King-meets-Boss duet; the busker who saw Springsteen walking down the street and got him to join in for a fifteen-minute concert; the tourist who was trudging up to his nosebleed Madison Square Garden seats when a member of Springsteen's tour crew randomly gave him front-row tickets.

The stories all speak to the star's famous identification with the working-class Joes who've supported him for decades, and occasional bits of concert footage capture the live energy fans cherish. Ranging from a '70s-shot black-and-white video of "Growin' Up" to the present day, this live material may not be the point of the film, but it's welcome -- as is (if only to break the monotony) the single interview with a nonfan, the good-humored husband of a superfan who has traveled with her to tour stops all across Europe and enjoyed everything except the marathon concerts.

Production Company: Black Dog Films

Director: Baillie Walsh

Producer: Svana Gisla

Executive producers: Ridley Scott, Alfred Chubb, Liza Marshall, Jack Arbuthnott, Terry Shand, Geoffrey Kempin

Editor: Ben Harrex

No rating, 78 minutes